Will Wrigley Takeover by Illinois Help Enrich Billionaire Sam Zell?

January 30, 2008

Illinois taxpayers may soon be asked to make real-estate billionaire Sam Zell even richer. As part of his takeover of the

Chicago Tribune

, Zell is trying to unload the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, which the Tribune Company currently owns. Details remain sketchy but involve the Illinois Sports Finance Authority (ISFA) issuing low-interest, tax-exempt bonds to purchase and rebuild the historic stadium. (The ISFA was specifically created to build and manage a new field for the Chicago White Sox.)

A public takeover of Wrigley Field would save a future Cubs owner millions in stadium repair costs. According to the

Chicago Reader

, leasing the stadium from the state would also save new owners an additional $50 million in property taxes over 30 years. By being able to offer these advantages, Zell could get a much better price for the Cubs.

Accounts vary, but Zell apparently approached Governor Rod Blagojevich (an ardent Cubs fan) with the idea of a state takeover. The

Chicago Sun-Times


recently that Mayor Richard Daley, after initially denouncing the takeover idea, is now “open” to it. Zell is a

major Daley campaign contributor.